Titchwell Marsh on the Norfolk coast is to be partly sacrificed to the rising tides in order to concentrate on saving areas more inland, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which owns the site.

Titchwell Marsh’s sea defences have started to crumble from coastal erosion, prompting the RSPB to make a ‘managed retreat’ and rebuild sea defences more securely inland – which will mean that a portion of the reserve, currently sheltered from the sea, will become tidal marsh and flood twice daily.

The RSPB says that, if the waters were to break through then the entire reserve, not only will a mix of brackish and fresh water marshes and scarce reedbed be lost, but also rare breeding birds such as the bittern (pictured) and marsh harrier.

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation, said: ‘The erosion has been going on for years but it is being accelerated by sea-level rise, so we have to act earlier than we would have had to.’

An earth bank sea wall will be built 200 yards inland, protecting Titchwell Marsh for about 50 years, ‘by which time the danger of further erosion may have past’, according to the RSPB.

Helen Deavin, the RSPB’s manager for this project at Norfolk’s Titchwell Marsh, said: ‘It’s about balancing the interests of the site and finding the most sensible solution. We’ve got to bear in mind the impacts of climate change such as increased storminess.’

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